Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Supergirl #19 review

After last month's unexplained absence, regular Supergirl writer Mike Johnson is back and doesn't miss a beat, picking up from Frank Hannah's issue. That ended with Kara, poisoned by green Kryptonite during the H'el conflict, being carted off by the US military after a tussle with a villainous lava lass.

As we rejoin Supergirl, she's sealed in a pod and coming to, remembering her alliance with H'el as a far-off dream. And well done Mr Johnson, for putting a bit of distance between regular Kara - the Supergirl he's been building since DC's New 52 began - and Crossover Kara, the brain-dead ninny too stupid for even a Sixties Romance comic, swooning before a rogue's lies. Johnson's moment of denial is brief, but it's a step in the right direction, hinting that Supergirl was under some H'el spell.

Just as the soldiers are set to cart Kara off in a helicopter, a rescuer appears. It's Superman!

Actually, it's not. As with last issue, there's neither mention of, nor appearance by, Kara's cousin, who was on hand as she succumbed to the poisoning which, so far as he knows, could prove fatal.

It's Power Girl, the Earth 2 version of Kara, now resident on Earth 1, or Prime, or whatever DC is calling it these days! Last issue we saw Power Girl, aka Karen Starr, feel a connection to the sick Supergirl from miles away, and now she's here to save 'herself'. Hannah's Karen read as if she'd never heard of Supergirl, but Johnson course corrects, noting that Power Girl has been avoiding Supergirl - something we saw in her home book, Worlds' Finest - for fear of some multiversal catastrophe occuring should they so much as touch.

But now there's no avoiding it, as Supergirl stirs and the pair instinctively reaches out for one another. And while the world doesn't explode, their minds do, as Kara and Karen's memories and feelings mingle. Better still, Kara's green-tinged skin clears, and Karen feels better too. But the reverie can't last, as a motif that's dogged this book returns - the military firing on Supergirl. But this time the more assertive Power Girl is present, and she encourages her younger 'twin' not to put up with it. The soldiers take a bit of a beating, and the heroines can catch their breath.
But only for a moment, as Appex - one of Lex Luthor's new super-powered goons - attacks the pair. His mission? To test the limits of two super-powered Kryptonian women ... it seems that despite her efforts to stay off the grid, Power Girl has come to Luthor's notice. Cue a lot of entertaining pummelling and trash talk and - here we go again - Power Girl's costume ripping 'sexily'. Kara and Karen win the day, but there's a price. Karen begins to feel weak and Kara is on the verge of passing out completely, the sickly green pallor returning. Their only hope is Kara's undersea Sanctuary, her Kryptonian mini-fortress - their mind meld means Karen knows the way.

There, the in-house AI takes a look at the sick Supergirl, while attending to a more mundane matter - Power Girl's lack of a fit costume. It's taken a peek into her mind and come up with a new design ... well, new to this New 52 version of Power Girl. Most readers will recognise it as her classic costume, debuting here in a wonderfully feisty splash by artist Mahmud Asrar. While some readers don't like the boob window, rather a boob window in an unripped costume than a destroyed outfit every other appearance, surely? So for once, the loss of a costume mid-fight leads to something good - the return of Power Girl's iconic look. I knew this was coming, but assumed it would be a story point in Worlds' Finest; having it in Supergirl's title somehow makes Kara feel more part of Karen's narrative, and vice versa. Now if only the Sanctuary would do something about its mistress's ugly threads ... I mean, compare the regal Power Girl on Asrar's tremendous gatefold cover to Supergirl, who looks like a cross between a ragamuffin and an emaciated streetwalker.

The issue ends on a cliffhanger, but it's not an especially worrisome one, so let's concentrate on what comes before - a cracking first meeting between cross-dimensional selves Supergirl and Power Girl. And while the cover implies we're in for the old superhero-slugfest-fuelled-by-misunderstanding trope, the interior features an immediate affinity between our heroines. They get on like a house on fire, with Kara perhaps seeing that while life is chaotic and confusing right now, she may yet develop into a confident, elegant woman. And seeing - feeling - the close relationship between Power Girl and her Superman may incline Kara towards better relations with hers.

In a smart, elegant piece of scripting, Johnson begins with Kara's narration, switching to Power Girl's as she enters the book, emphasising the different tone of the heroines. There's a tiny error, with Karen referred to as Kara Zor-El rather than Zor-L, unless I missed a New 52 change, but that's forgiveable - especially when we're given such delights as the opening spread's wonderful legend and title, so well executed by letterer Rob Leigh (who also does a bang-up job with Appex's thug-font).

Asrar's layouts are a treat, with figures fighting, flying and flailing around the page with all appropriate force, grace and momentum. He manages to depict Kara and Karen as twins, but not identical ones, which is fair enough given that Power Girl is a few years older; he also does a fine job of differentiating their personalities via body language. The battle scenes are big and hyperkinetic, the quieter moments siffused with emotion. Asrar inks his own work for the most part, though Marlo Alquiza steps in for a few pages and keeps the quality high. Dave McCaig's colours emphasise the story beats, for example, the first few pages of poorly Kara are toned in sickly greeny-grey, but the second that force of nature Karen arrives it's vibrant reds and yellows.

This is Johnson's final issue (for now, he inserted, optimistically) with a new writer arriving next month (and knowing the current DC, likely the month after that, and the one after that ...). While I've found the story by him and frequent co-writer Michael Green a tad drawn out, we've had some real flashes of excellence in a book that was never less than entertaining. It's both sad, and rather great, that Johnson's final fling is my favourite issue of Supergirl to date.

5 comments:

  1. I agree, this was a good issue. Supergirl has consistently been the best Superman family book since the relaunch, and this is one of the better issues.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now, if only Kara could get time and space to sort out a proper private life ...

      Delete
  2. Loved this issue too. Think is great stuff and makes me kind of depressed that Johnson is being shown the door and there is so much stuff both here and pre-H'El that makes me think he understands Kara.

    Very high note to go out on.

    ReplyDelete
  3. My hope is that Karen will arrange the secret ID this go around. She certainly has the means and know how...

    ReplyDelete
  4. Great review Martin.

    I liked that the two Karas got along so well and I hope they stay on good terms. I didn't like the implication that Supergirl now has memories of war (all the horrible things Power Girl probably witnessed) and sex (I assume PG currently has a very active sex life while SG has none).

    Also Supergirl should set up a new security system for Sanctuary.

    --Eki

    ReplyDelete